Rack Magazine

Whoop, There He Is!

Whoop, There He Is!

By Brandon Hazel

Andre the Giant twice cheated death in 2014, escaping both a bullet and a broadhead. His luck didn’t hold the next season.

He called this buck Andre the Giant not because he wore a tremendous rack, but due to his body size. From the trail camera photographs we retrieved, he seemed a foot taller at the back and much longer than any other deer I had ever seen.

My friend Chris and I went out in October, after the 2014 season had already opened, and hung a camera to see if anything was passing through this little 6-acre tract. It was an area I rarely hunted due to its size and the difficulty of accessing it.

We knew it was a popular bedding area for deer.

After a couple of weeks, we checked the card mainly to make sure the camera was working. We were shocked to see this beast. It had wandered past the lens only two hours after we’d left it.

Being that it’s such a small patch and made up of mostly grass and very few trees, setting up an ambush spot wasn’t easy. And that’s to say nothing of getting anywhere near it without alerting the deer I wanted to hunt. Dead brush was everywhere.

I enlisted the help of a couple of trusted friends, and we went out in the middle of a day to brush in a ground blind. A week later, I checked the camera to see if Andre was still there.

To our surprise, he had passed in front of the camera not only the same evening we’d fortified the blind, but also every day afterward, almost every two hours.

The buck had to be living right there in that small patch of grass.

Knowing there was no way to sneak in during the morning to get him, I waited until around 11:00 to visit that setup.

In the first five days of hunting, he never showed. But he would be at the location within 20 or 30 minutes after I left. That told me he was watching me coming and going, which caused me to reevaluate my approach.

I tried walking in from different directions, to no avail. Then I asked a friend to drop me off, so there would be no truck in sight. You can see for miles where I hunt.

Finally, the drop-off tactic worked. I saw the buck chasing a doe 100 yards distant.

Once I saw him in the flesh, I realized Andre was every bit as big as the photos indicated. That was the first time in many years I got the shakes, and he wasn’t even in range!

A couple of days later, my good friend Greg and I went in again at 11 a.m. He was going to get it all on film. The deer had become so predictable, we felt it was going to happen.

About 4 p.m., however, an earthquake rocked the area. It began shortly after the deer in front of us suddenly went on full alert, hopping around like crazy.

A thundering noise – this on a bluebird day – came next. Greg looked at me and said, “What is going on?” Then the ground started moving under us.

Needless to say, that ended the hunt.

Two days later, I was back in there ready to go. Just about an hour before the end of the hunt, none other than Andre came walking within range. I first saw his antlers in the grass.

I slid down in my blind and drew my bow, just looking out enough to see the tip of his antlers. When he was in range, I slid up to shoot. To my shock, he was missing most of his right side.

I put the bow down and looked with my binoculars. It looked like someone had shot the antler off with a rifle. The break was forward of the P2.

I could see how the antler was shredded – not a clean break – and there was a hole in his ear right at the same area. I was crushed, to say the least. But I spent the rest of the year monitoring his movement and praying someone else didn’t shoot him.

On July 15, 2015, trail cam images revealed that a couple of the property’s monsters had survived. In fact, Andre the Giant stood up out of the grass as we came up to the field. There was no doubt it was him, even though he’d lost a few inches.

As always, we spent the off-season preparing locations to hunt along with practicing. When the bow season opened, I had patterned Andre to the point I knew there was no way to walk in during the morning without being seen by the deer.

On opening day, the wind and temperature were terrible. There were 50-mph gusts, and the thermometer showed the high 90s. The same conditions lasted for a few days.

Over the summer, we had set up blinds at two locations so we could bowhunt in all climates and without the need for trees. Needless to say, I ventured out into the stand at midday, sweating profusely, and I saw only a few does at dusk.

The forecast for Friday was for a cool front. I was dying to get in the stand, but I spent Friday night watching my nephew’s football game.

On Saturday, Sept. 19, I got my first good evening to hunt. I had deer everywhere, moving around and even bedding down right next to me. Right after sunset, I began scanning the area nonstop.

When I opened the window to my right, a doe was just 10 feet away. After about a 10-minute stare down, I eased back out of the sight line and put the window up quickly.

When I turned around, there stood Andre the Giant, facing me. He was looking right at me from only 30 yards away. I wasn’t sure if I was busted or if he was looking at the doe behind me, but at least the wind was in my favor.

Finally, he lowered his head to eat. But the other big buck with him continued looking at me. I slowly reached for my bow as the clock was ticking.

When I got the bow up and on Andre, I just needed him to turn a bit to give me a clean shot. He stood there, looking right at me. After about 30 seconds or so, he turned to walk away. When he stopped to look back from about 40 yards, I let the arrow fly.

My initial reaction was I had just hammered him with a perfect shot. I listened for a sound indicating which way he’d gone, but I couldn’t hear or see anything. I then tried looking for blood or my glowing nock through my binoculars.

I couldn’t see either.

After about 20 minutes, despite it getting darker, I could make out a deer walking about 100 yards north of me. But I couldn’t tell if it was Andre. It looked like it might have been limping.

That made me begin second-guessing everything that had happened. Maybe I didn’t make the perfect shot.

I texted my buddy Eric, who reassured me my first instinct was probably right, that the buck was undoubtedly dead. But I wasn’t convinced, so I sat there watching where the limping buck had bedded.

I could barely make out the deer’s body.

Finally, about 10:30, I saw a coyote approach the buck I was watching, and the deer got up and ran like nothing was ever wrong.

At that point, I was beside myself with confusion. I got down and began looking for blood. I thought I’d find it and mark the spot for my return the next morning.

I found a lot of blood and followed it for about 20 yards through 10-foot-tall Johnson grass. I soon realized I wouldn’t be able to see my hat when I returned, so I decided to push onward until I came to an opening in the tall grass.

After about 40 yards, I reached a clearing next to an old dry creek bed. I saw a limb I could hang my hat on, walked over to hang it, and there was my buck.

He had been dead the entire time. I never heard him running because he was done almost instantly.

I called and texted all my friends at camp, but nobody responded. They were all cleaning someone else’s deer. So I walked out to my truck and drove back to get help loading the beast.

When I arrived, everyone asked why I hadn’t called, and I advised them to look at their phones. Then we all loaded up and went to retrieve the buck.

It was a late night, but a great one because my buddies were there to help me celebrate.

This article was published in the April 2017 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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